Grant for I-25 Requires Consensus

CDOT just approved a $35 million dollar RAMP (Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnership) grant to improve and expand I-25. The grant is an important step, without which the expansion of the highway north of Longmont won’t begin until 2075. The RAMP concept is an important change to CDOT’s philosophy. Under RAMP, CDOT funds multi-year projects based on year-of expenditure, rather than saving for the full amount for a project before construction begins.

The estimated cost to expand I-25 to Highway 14 (Fort Collins) has grown since the project design was approved in 2011. It was then estimated to cost $2,178 billion dollars. Since then the estimated cost as grown between $6.748 billion and $11.495 billion. The longer we wait to build, the more expensive it will become.

The project planned for the RAMP grant would create a tolled lane operated by a private vendor between Colorado 66 (Longmont) to Colorado 14 (Fort Collins). Money generated by the tolls would be necessary to finish the project. However, now the pressure is on local governments between Highways 7 and 66. They would have to agree to convert an existing lane to a toll lane. That is a major sticking point for some local officials, notably the Weld County Commissioners, who strongly object to the proposal. If consensus is not reached by April 2014, the RAMP grant funding will be lost.

Loveland City Council member Joan Shaffer’s strategy is to bring the voice of Northern Colorado’s business community into the discussion. She is convening a meeting for business leaders in Loveland at the Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation and Technology (the former HP plant) on Nov. 6 to see if there is interest in building a coalition “about all things related to the possibilities for the expansion of I-25.” Elected officials have also been invited to the meeting.

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